Hilary Swank will play Emory historian Deborah Lipstadt in upcoming movie

April 30, 2015

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Academy Award winner Hilary Swank (right) has been attached to play Emory historian Deborah Lipstadt (left) in a movie based on Lipstadt’s book “History on Trial: My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier.” Lipstadt photo by Emory Photo/Video. Swank photo by ECVpictures [CC BY-SA 3.0].

Emory University historian Deborah Lipstadt's acclaimed 2005 book, "History on Trial: My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier," which chronicles her exoneration by a British court in a sensational libel trial, is being made into a feature film.

Two-time Academy Award winner Hilary Swank is attached to play Lipstadt, and two-time Academy Award nominee Tom Wilkinson is attached to play Lipstadt's barrister in "Denial," a film based on Lipstadt's book.

"I am delighted that this is coming to fruition," says Lipstadt, Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish History and Holocaust Studies at Emory. "It's been in the works for a while, but I never quite imagined it would come to be."  

Adapted for the screen by Academy Award nominated writer David Hare ("The Reader," "The Hours"), the book recounts Lipstadt's legal battle for historical truth against Irving, who sued her for libel when she declared him a Holocaust denier. In the English legal system, the burden of proof is on the accused; therefore it was up to Lipstadt and her legal team to prove the essential truth that the Holocaust actually happened and Irving had manipulated data to make history vanish.

The film will be directed by Emmy Award winner Mick Jackson ("Temple Grandin," "The Bodyguard") and produced by Gary Foster ("My Old Lady," "The Soloist," "Sleepless in Seattle") and Russ Krasnoff ("Community," "The Soloist") under their Krasnoff/Foster Entertainment banner alongside Shoebox Films.

"To have a script by David Hare, one of the great playwrights and screenwriters of our time, and to be played by Hilary Swank, who is not only winner of two Oscars but who has an uncanny ability to 'become' the character she is playing, is all a bit more than I ever imagined possible," Lipstadt says.  

Participant Media developed the project with BBC Films, and they are in discussions to co-finance. Alison Thompson is handling international sales and will introduce "Denial" to buyers at the Cannes Film Festival. A fall 2015 start is planned for the project.

"This is a powerful story about the legal and personal battle Deborah Lipstadt fought to defend the veracity of historical facts. No one has the right to erase history by distorting the truth and David Hare's brilliant script weaves a relevant and thrilling journey," say producers Foster and Krasnoff. "We are very excited to be working with such a lauded cast, led by the incredible Hilary Swank and Tom Wilkinson. Coupled with director Mick Jackson — it truly is an award winning combination."

Krasnoff says he first became aware of Lipstadt when he visited the Emory website and saw a story about efforts to increase access to Lipstadt's Holocaust on Trial website, which educates the public on Holocaust denial and presents the legal and historical documents from the trial.